Hump Day Giveaway: Smart at Heart

The heart: a complex organ. Just like the run.

Heart attack.

What did you think of when you read those two words? I, for one, used to think of a classic Type-A executive: a male, dressed in a navy blue suit, whose heart couldn't handle the pressure and stress of his high-powered job, so one day, while alone in his corner office, he loses his breath and gets all gaspy in his beautiful, leather desk chair.

That couldn't be farther from the truth. Instead, think of a bank teller or a cleaning lady or your mother-in-law with a pain in her jaw, a slight pressure in her chest and lightheadedness. She's having a heart attack. We women are just as prone to cardiac issues as men are; in fact, heart disease is the number one killer of women. It's not breast cancer or uterine cancer or anything else related to our feminine parts. It's heart disease, those words with masculine, cold connotations.

The women I met last year in Revere, Massachusetts, know that better than anybody. I interviewed about 20 of the 60 or so women who are involved in a revolutionary study called HAPPY Heart. In order to be part of the study, they have to have least two of the major risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, sedentary lifestyle and genetic history of cardiac issues.

Instead of just tossing pills at them with directives to lose weight and exercise in order to get to a better place, the study, led by Dr. Malissa Wood, is more like a comprehensive well-being program. Through weekly life improvement programs, exercise classes and one-on-one sessions, the participants realize that

your cardiac health is influenced, among other things, by how much stress is in your life, and more importantly, how you deal with it, the strength of your friendships and family connections (or lack of them); the quality of the sleep you do or don't get; your perspective on the world. In other words, defusing toxic relationships is as important to your heart as easing up on the butter in the mashed potatoes. And getting your house in order to receive guests is as key to good health as taking daily walks is.

I'm actually quoting myself there; I was honored to help Dr. Wood, a renowned cardiologist, write Smart at Heart: A Holistic 10-step Approach to Preventing and Healing Heart Disease for Women, her book about her comprehensive philosophy when it comes to treating patients. In Dr. Wood's world, in order to treat a heart, you have to look at the whole body, mind and soul, not just the numbers on the chart.

Dr. Malissa Wood, in a green jacket, spreading the running and heart love at the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women.

So it should come as no surprise that Dr. Wood is a runner. She ran the Boston Marathon as part of a charity while we were working on the book together; after discussing cholesterol and diabetes, we'd talk about training runs and race pace. Running is so much more than physical step after step, just like a heart is so much more than physical beat after beat. In Smart at Heart, we talk about connecting the emotional heart with the physical heart in order to obtain a whole, healthy heart. When I talk about running, I think about connecting those two parts of my heart as well. I wouldn't go the miles if my spirit and head didn't benefit more than my quads and calves. I run for the whole experience.

Although Smart at Heart isn't written in the same casual, girlfriendy tone we used in the Like A Mother books--it is a Harvard Health Publication, after all--it is filled with important studies and ideas that can bring anybody, step by step, closer to better heart--and overall--health.

A healthy, whole heart awaits.

But my favorite part is that we tell the stories of the women who are climbing that ladder towards better health. Originally, I thought I'd have nothing in common with the HAPPY Heart women. Many of them are struggling with problems much bigger than my reality has ever been. But our 20-minute interview slots often stretched to 45 minutes as they told me how much they loved Zumba, how they were surprised at how much they liked hummus when they for the first time, how they were so proud when they walked a mile. The confidence and strength they emanated as they told me their tales of success was as powerful as any finish-line tale--and, I hope, might just lead them across their own finish line one day.

A little shameless self-promotion for today's giveaway: we've got six copies of Smart at Heart ready to mail to six random winners. Although this book might not be right for you now, I am confident there's a woman--a mom, a friend, a neighbor, a teacher--in your life who could find a useful tidbit or three in it as they begin down the path of 2012.

In order to enter, you just need to tell us: what, besides running, do you do to take care of your heart? Could be nutrition, meditation (or attempts at it), defusing anger, simplifying your life...anything that brings you peace, happiness and health.




177 responses to “Hump Day Giveaway: Smart at Heart

  1. After 6 root canals, anxiety attacks (thought I was having a heart attack) my family history, therapy ( a great holistic approach combined with diet and exercise) I realized the stress of my unhappiness with my loveless marriage, I finally was able to leave the marriage.

    I have plenty of stress now, but I deal with it by breathing, meditation, exercise, diet (still love Bacon) and simple living, continuing to love me the most, and trying to appreciate each day for what it offers, learning to surrender without feeling like I lost are ways I try to keep healthy…your views on body as well as mind and soul are the ways I feel will help improve all of our lives and health.

    Thank you

  2. My Uncle just had a heart attack last summer – a very active and healthy eater. And another Aunt just had a heart attack before Christmas. So this hits home for me.
    Besides running, my me time is playing soccer. I can forget everything else that’s going on, it’s great.

  3. We recently adopted a puppy and I have found that taking her for walks is a great stress reliever. I love running, but I have skipped some of my work-outs just so I can have more time to spend with the puppy. Oh, and the occasional glass of red wine is good too!

  4. Building community and connecting with others at church and around town. I also unwind by playing the guitar and singing and sharing the gift of music with others.

  5. Wow. What an important post, and what wonderful comments! I obviously am not doing enough for my heart.

    My mom died recently at 64 of heart disease, but aside from re-starting running, I haven’t done a thing.

    Time to get serious, I guess.

  6. Definitely nutrition. I have gone without red meat now for 4 years. Healthy eating is so important, not only for runners, but for all healthy women. My Mom died at at 62 from heart disease. I am doing everything in my power not to have the same fate. I want to see my grandchildren get married!!

  7. I quit smoking in 2005 when I found out I was pregnant with my twins. I also make a concentrated effort to focus on my nutrition daily. Healthy eating has an impact in almost every aspect of your life.

  8. I’ve done a lot to reduce stress in my life – which isn’t easy for a working mom of 3 boys! Adding in as much positive as possible and eliminating any unnecessary negative, has been huge. The run keeps me sane and gives me time to think and analyze direction and simultaneously pound out frustrations.

  9. Besides running, I am always working on keeping myself calm. I can get revved up pretty quickly! My Mom had quintuple by-pass surgery this past May, my father died from heart disease, as did all my grandparents. I have had my heart checked in the past few years to make sure nothing is going on, and so far, so good. Also take fish oil and try to eat healthy.

  10. I try to laugh every day. With my kids, with my husband, at work, anywhere! We’re all so serious these days (and often for good reason), but I’m working on creating laugh lines as I get older, not frown lines. :-))

  11. Smile 😀 Especially when I want to blow a gasket… which is a lot more often since being a SAHM mom for the last 6 months!

  12. I’ve recently returned to stretching/short yoga practice in the morning and at night to energize and then unwind.
    This books looks awesome! Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy.

  13. I have been struggling for years to finally commit to make a change to live a healthy lifestyle. I surrendered just recently to the fact that I have a problem, and ever since I am on a mission to save my life. I committed to a daily exercise regimen and a healthy diet. I am more than 100 pounds over weight, and I have so much to live for today. I am making this change for myself, because I am finally beginning to love myself. I am also making this change for my one year old daughter and my husband. I know they will always love me no matter what, but making this change for myself will help me to be the best I can be.

    I am a recovering drug and alcohol addict, and I have been clean and sober for nearly four years, and I quit smoking cigarrettes two years ago. I have the utmost confidence in myself that I can do whatever I put my mind to. I will be a marathon runner in the future, and everyday I know I will be fighting the fight against heart disease.

  14. I try to eat well–whole grains, lots of fruits and vegetables, and be cautious of my salt intake. When I was growing up and we saw someone smoking, my dad would always say that cigarettes are the reason his dad died before meeting any of his grandchildren (heart attack in his forties), so I don’t smoke. I had preeclampsia with my first pregnancy which has been associated with later high BP risk, so I’m very conscious of when my BP starts to feel elevated and breathing deeply to relax and bring it back down.

  15. I have positive family history of early coronary artery disease ( dad’s 1st heart attack and triple bypass surgery at age 48- his dad’s 1st before 50 also). So I think it is important to stay on top of what my fasting cholesterol/ triglycerides are. Which reminds me I’m due for annual lab work.

  16. Oh my….this book is on my amazon wish list. No wait, it’s getting bought right now…along with “how to talk to your preschooler….” Says it all doesn’t it. 😉

    Here’s what I am doing to ensure that my 40th birthday is not my 2/3rd life mark as it was for my mother: Yoga, running, skiing, pilates – but more importantly giving myself the ability to just say “no”, I can’t do that for you right now: I need rest, I need time for myself, I need to exercise and keep my body healthy, I need conversations with friends who get it and can calm me down enough so I don’t stress too much.

    And an annual visit to the doctor, now that my body has settled out from the last wonderful 18 months of breast feeding to see what that cholesterol really is….

  17. I have heart disease in the family from my dad’s side, so I keep an eye on my blood pressure (I’m a big fan of those self-check BP machines at the grocery store), avoid too much saturated fat and drink wine moderately. :^)

  18. I have unlucky genetics on both sides of my family, so I have been on blood pressure medication for awhile. I wish it wasn’t necessary, but it’s better than the alternative. Otherwise, I do what I can to eat the right stuff and take the right supplements and try to get some time to relax – easier said than done! Looking forward to reading this book.

  19. Eat healthy, exercise, and do yoga! I also take a flax and fish oil supplement along with a multivitamin, vitamin C, and calcium. I could do a better job of managing stress though…. nobody is perfect right? 🙂

  20. Quit smoking 4 years ago, started running Feb 2011 (my first marathon this year in June), and this year my focus is on my diet. I’m aiming to eat a green vegetable everyday. Okay, more vegetables everyday. Every change I make ripples out to my family. It’s just a bonus!

  21. I’m trying to be more aware of the quality of foods I prepare and eat. I do most of my food shopping at our local co-op, and I love experimenting with new recipes. I’ve delved into the blog world full steam ahead on this front. Quinoa is my favorite discovery of 2011. Who knows what I’ll fall in love with in 2012!

  22. So I do all that healthy ‘stuff’ – try to eat well, sleep well and exercise well. But after an awful day or when I’m really feeling crummy or sad or scared, my first thought is to to go get my kids and love on them. Hugging the snot out of them brings me peace.

  23. Last week I was diagnosed with early onset hypertension (I’m in my 30s). Everyone on my mother’s side of the family has hypertension or has passed away from a heart attack. So, after a ton of labwork and some scary high blood pressure readings (233/123 when I checked into the ER 2 weeks ago) and a weekend stay in the hospital, I look to my workouts (runs, cross-training, tap class) as a way to keep my heart and body healthy. I want to be around for a long time for my two young children and my husband. I can only imagine where my health would be if I wasn’t as active as I currently am.

  24. I’m a vegetarian trying to also eliminate eggs and dairy from my diet. My dad died of a heart attack at the age of 50 and it breaks my heart (no pun intended) when i think he might still be here to see his grandchildren had he chosen a healthier lifestyle.

  25. Other than running, I play outside with my kids, running around like I am 5 years old too….enjoying the sun, no stress, just enjoying being outside and carefree.

  26. Organize a little “Go Red for Women” run for my running group to coincide with the AHA Go Red campign. We all dressed in red, including one in a tutu, running a very public route through the center of town. I’ll e-mail you a pic.

  27. I have most of the symptoms-high blood pressure, high cholesterol, borderline diabetic, major family history, so on Jan. 10, 2011, I started the 60+ days of the Insanity workout to get me jump started for a healthier lifestyle. Since then, I’ve run four 5ks and am now training for a half. I’m eating more fruits and vegetables than ever before and making healthier food choices for my heart. I’m hoping my doc will see my improvements and reduce some of my meds. Keep your fingers crossed!

  28. Besides my beloved running as a stress relief, I’ve also taken up spinning on Ryder spin bikes. I’be resumed yoga to help quiet my mind. I also try hard to take little mental snapshots of the small daily events that bring a smile to my face in hopes of remembering them when stress starts to overwhelm again.

  29. I started running 6 years ago because 3 of my children’s 4 grandparents have had open heart surgery – my dad when he was 48. I cannot allow myself or my kids fall into this genetic-lifestyle trap. I run and I eliminate as much negativity as possible in my life. Debbie Downer and her counterparts are not my friends!

  30. I have always tried to be mindful of my heart health by running, doing yoga and eating well. Just this past September my Dad had a heart attack and required a quadruple by-pass. The kicker? He’s one of the healthiest guys that I know. He eats well, runs, cross-country skis and lifts weights. Unfortunately, hereditary plays a huge part in our story. I’ve learned a lot about warning signs and overall awareness. The experience increased my mindfulness.

  31. Make an effort to eat whole and clean foods, starting with growing most of the fruits and vegetables we eat. And the gardening part is good for my emotional heart as well, something very zen and rewarding from working in the dirt 🙂

  32. I have a handful of things that could stress me to the max that I very consciously refuse to allow to stress me out. That and learning how to say “no” ( I was born with the “disease to please”) are two of the best things I have learned to control stress.

  33. I try to live a happy and healthy life and to not let stress and the desire to achieve goals get in the way of living in the moment.

  34. LAUGH, with my husband and children. DANCE, when the mood strikes. LOVE, with all my heart, as it was intended. Running (exercise), eating healthy, No smoking or drinking (except an occasional celebration drink), those are easily done everyday. When I am gone my children may say, “Yeah, Mom was a runner”, but when they remember the way I danced around the kitchen with them laughing and having a good time, those are the moments that will bring a smile to their face. Those are the moments that makes the heart stronger.

  35. I’ve had high blood pressure for many years, which I thought was controlled by medication. I began having heart palpitations when my son was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease. With the stress of everyday life, and my son’s condition, along with being so overweight, I realized that I was on a straight track for a heart attack before 40. I cut my hours back at work, began eating healthy, doing yoga, and running. I lost 45 lbs, and I am now at a healthy weight. Under my Doctor’s instructions, I was able lower the dosage of my medication by 75%. The rest is bad genetics, apparently. But I am not discouraged- I feel healthy, and proud to know that I am setting a good example for my kids. Most importantly, I know that I will be here to take care of them.

  36. Well, I would like to say something….but I really haven’t been taking care of my heart. I think it is for sure something I need to work on since bothe my dad and grandfather had heart attacks.
    I don’t really know where to begin.

  37. My family has done a whole scale change of our diet to one of more whole foods, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and reduced red meat intake. Between that and adding in exercise including running, muly husband and I have each lost over 30 pounds and we are teaching our girls the benefits of exercise and healthy eating so they get a good start in life.

  38. There are so many things in a day that “get me going” towards stress. I try to ask myself if it’s something that I will even remember two months from now, or two years from now. If not, I take a deep breath and move on!

  39. I’m as much of a yogini as I am a runner, maybe even more. Yoga keeps me emotionally healthy and balanced. And Dimity,I wish you had a local reading when you were in Revere!

  40. Mainly eat well. Also, live my life as stress free as possible, i.e. so what if there’s mountains of laundry to do? It’ll still be there tomorrow 🙂

  41. I keep my heart healthy by staying in touch with a huge group of girlfriends. Whether they are childhood friends, college friends, teacher friends, neighbor friends, mom-of-a-same-age-kid friends, or my best friend, they keep me balanced, challenged and very heart healthy.

  42. Monitor the BP, cholesterol, and other biometrics. I’m a work in progress, of course. Hopefully my heart will be a little healthier this year than last (and so on)!

  43. I (obviously) exercise, but I also try to eat right. I rarely have fast food and eat plenty of heart smart foods like oatmeal and flax seed. I would love to win this and give it to my mom who had triple bypass in 2008. Since then she has completely changed her lifestyle and is a model patient. However, she still struggles to keep her cholesteral down–it’s like her body is rebelling no matter how well she takes care of herself now. But she LOVES to read about cardiac health–I think she has checked every single book with the word “heart” in the title out of the library!!

  44. For me I always need to worry about my heart…. my father is on at least 4 cardiac medications and I do not want to follow in his footsteps. I try to eat healthy, run/swim to stay in shape, and try to just enjoy life (even though there could be a bit of stress mixed in).

  45. Besides running, I like to do a yoga workout to stretch, relax, & breath. After a good yoga workout I always feel more relaxed & renewed (and ready for more running!)

  46. My father 3 years ago had a quadruple bypass .Watching him survive and rehab that was enough for me ( and all 3 of my sisters ) to make life changes. We started all eating heart healthy and more importantly teaching our children the life lesson of a heart healthy lifestyle. We all exercise regularly and Infact we all three will be running a half marathon in April together to celebrate!! I can’t wait to get this book and add to my collection of book on living heart healthy.

  47. Besides running….I’m trying really hard to change my eating habits. Drink more water. Avoid stress and finding ways to manage stress and anger through reading and therapy!! Two dogs and two kids and husband, we’ve promised to be mire active as a family, started with a two mile turkey trot (along with 4000 others) this past Thanksgiving!

  48. I think I should get this book! I had to make an appointment with a cardiologist because I have been having heart issues the last few weeks and after an EKG and 24 Holter my DR gave me a referral.

  49. I’ve been working on my heart by eating healthier- making more fruit and veggie choices rather than fries and candy!

  50. I try to ensure my family eats healthy meals and get regular check ups. I also help my heart by running and biking with my friends.

  51. I’m battling against genetics – high cholesterol and heart disease on both sides of the family – so I am serious about keeping my heart healthy. Vegetarian diet (very low in dairy) and as much yoga as I can fit into a day. Meditation when I’m stressed out.

  52. I remember that my grandparents and my father all had heart disease and all had bypass surgery young in life…then I get my butt out of bed at 5:45 and RUN! I’d love this book! Thanks!

  53. Nothing*, which is scary, so I would like to read this book!

    * I do enjoy being active, yoga, biking, etc. and make some effort at a healthy diet. The last couple of cholesterol tests have motivated me to try to take up running again and eat oatmeal pancakes … But really in terms of heart health – not so much. And I chronically do not get enough sleep. Definitely could read that book.

  54. Just restarting my life as I use to know it. After a 15 year hiatus of scheduled time for me, I know it has to change. Heart disease is in the family, and I know I should have been smarter, but I let life get in the way, or that was the excuse! I have started training towards a 5 km run and in December signed up for a boot camp. I need the extra incentive these days! So working hard to keep my promises to myself, every day is a challenge but looking forward to feeling good again!!

  55. Besides running to take care of my heart I also do lots of strength training with Crossfit-ish exercises. Calisthenics and things similar to that can really be a GREAT way to exercise your cardio vascular fitness. Also, I love to swim when the weather permits.

  56. I love unwinding with a cup of tea and the newspaper! I also enjoy long walks outside to take in my beautiful neighborhood and the weather.

  57. I am a big believer in not holding on to stress and worry. I’m not always good at it (being a natural worrier) but I’m not the same worry-wart I was growing up or even a year ago. I’ve learned to trust God and “cast my cares.” He’s got the strength to take care of stuff; I don’t.

  58. I pray every night when I go to bed, thanking God for the good stuff and asking Him to continue to help me handle the bad stuff that happens.

  59. I try to eat healthy. Get enough sleep and enjoy my two little boys and play super heroes and pirates with them.

  60. I have high cholesterol (and have had it since high school). That’s part of why I exercise. I remember vividly when my dad was 39 and his doctor asked him if he wanted to live to see 40. He was not obese, but he was not healthy. He (and the whole family because of it) went on a strict diet and began exercising. When I found myself about to turn 30 and carrying too much extra weight, I knew I didn’t want to find myself in that same position. That’s when I started running.

    I also work to eat healthy foods and cut out the junk. Sometimes that junk is food, and other times it is the “junk” in my house that has to be decluttered.

  61. Well, I hang out with my God, to bring me peace, happiness and health. I trust Him to take care of my heart too ~ He, in fact, already knows how many beats it has left anyway. Oh, and i eat oatmeal! 😉 Thanks for the giveaway! runner_girl5k at yahoo dot com

  62. I am maintaining my 50 lb weight loss, trying to eat food that nourishes my body and attending church regularly to help me strengthen my relationships with God and my family & friends.

  63. Drink wine. No, I do that for my sanity, since I cannot bear to drink red wine. But I do eat healthy and really try to reduce my genetically predisposed high cholesterol. I am very active, and between that, and my healthy eating, I hope that my kids, also predisposed to cholesterol and heart issues, will also learn to be heart smart and live life fully!

  64. I’m trying to stay at a healthy weight and make choices that will keep me “heart” healthy! I have an adorable grandson I want to see grow up!

  65. Thanks for this great sounding book! My mom has had three heart attacks, and then a stroke ten days after her last one. It’s been an interesting 2011 seeing how all my siblings, dad and I deal/handle the stress!

    Running, but you said that doesn’t count.
    1. Talking with husband.
    2. Trying to eat well (and no, I can’t seem to cut the dairy/cheese from my diet).
    3. I’m learning (and doing so much better) at trying to eliminate the “I *have* to worry about this” to “my stressing over A, B or C is not going to change the issue, so stop worrying”.
    4. I try to surround myself with positive thinking people. One Negative Nelly will bring you down. It’s hard to separate/distance yourself from a Negative Nelly, but it has to be done for health/stress/happiness.

  66. Try as I might to eat healthy and exercise and surround myself with positive people and support, I still let work stress get the better of me and I know physically it eats away at my health. If I could ditch the stress, I would be ahead of the game on my health….

  67. I’m downloading the book to my Kindle as I type. Thank you for sending it our way, and thank you to this entire community for the continued wisdom and support that is truly inspiring.

  68. I take a little time each day for myself. It may just be the few minutes I have to shower in the morning, or it may be an hour of wandering around a store. But this way, I have a little time to defuse from the day.

  69. I eat vegan except for biweekly or monthly servings of salmon for the fatty acids. But I think taking a bubble bath when my daughter’s with her dad alternate weekends has helped me reduce stress, de-clutter, and find “me” time that can’t be bad for my heart 🙂

  70. No drinking or smoking. Relaxing more and eating better. A part of de-stressing for me was to stop taking work home, and relaxing in front of the tv after running.

  71. I am trying to reduce the stress in my life through running, yoga, and organizing (life, diet, and finances). Since both of my mom’s parents died of heart attacks and my 5 month old has been diagnosed with a serious heart condition, I figure that I need to look at me too!

  72. I take care of my heart by having my teeth cleaned regularly, exercising, trying to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables daily, and, finally, after over 15 years, quitting smoking.

  73. My heart care mantra is “Don’t Worry, Just Run, Just walk, Just Dance, Just Do Something”. Stress melts away when I follow my mantra. I sing to beat stress and the blues. I find “Did I Shave My Legs for This?” to be helpful. Somedays you just need to belt it out.

  74. Besides exercising, I’m a vegetarian, which I am sure helps. But the next thing that sprang into my mind was my cats. Sure, I love my kids and my husband, but they often cause stress as well as relieve it. Those two crazy felines of ours get us laughing even when life is tossing us a curve ball.

  75. I really try to eat healthy. Lots of oatmeal, veggies and whole grains. Luckily, for me, I love all those foods so it’s not that hard to do.

  76. Despite a family history of heart disease, I wasn’t doing much — worked 50-60+ hours/week, didn’t eat well, gained TONS of weight with each of my 2 little kids — until this spring. It started with a meditation class, and as part of that I started visualizing myself being healthy. And fit. And when I visualized that, I was often visualizing myself running with my kids, which I was too out of shape to do very often. So I bought new running shoes and happened to be in the store on the first day of a NoBoundaries program … a beginner’s program training for a 5K. Although I can’t run the whole time yet, I completed two last fall, and have a goal of running a full 5K and completing a 10K this year. I find when I’m running, I take care of myself better more generally. Still have a long way to go, but becoming a runner is helping me think of myself differently!

  77. My grandfather passed away at 54 from his second heart attack. His first heart attack a decade early resulted in a quadruple bypass. My own father has been on heart meds since his mid30s. I’m only 27 but already concerned about my heart health in a big way. I had three babies within three years (not easy on the heart by any means) and weighed my heaviest post third baby just seven months ago. Since then I have lost just over 50 lbs, bringing me below my pre pregnancy weight, and into a healthier heart range. I quit smoking 4+ years ago, I run often (training for my first half!), and I’ve overhauled my families eating habits.

  78. I am learning to let go of relationships that are toxic to me. Some people just drain me (besides my child….hahaha). If you are a drainer, you and I won’t last very long.:-)

  79. Heart disease runs rampant in my family so this is a little skeery to read.

    I’m cleaning up my eating habits and -thinking I was preserving my sanity and not realizing I’m also helping my heart – I decided this is the year to detox myself from toxic family relationships

  80. In addition to running, I try to avoid fried and fatty foods, eat lots of veggies and fruit, and keep peace within my heart every day. Prayer, worship, helping others and faith in God above helps me acheive that peace. And having lots of angel friends in my life helps a lot to!

  81. keeping a regular yoga practice, spending time outside, on nature walks with my family. Of course, eating healthy is essential-and, as a treat, chocolate!

  82. Heart disease is in my family (mom). The major steps (other than running and losing weight/good nutrition) were to learn how to handle stress/anger, and decluttering. Both of those are ongoing – they are processes, not events. was what got me started with decluttering (okay, DH helped). 12 step programs helped me to realize that anger/resentment is like taking poison and hoping it will kill the other person. What a great project!!!

  83. I heard the words in October a couple hours after crossing the line at the Long Beach Half Marathon: Possible Heart Attack. A Dr said that to ME. It sent me in a full blown Anixiety attack. I had elevated cardiac enzymes. After a 36 hrs stay in the cardiac unit, the conclusion was that I did NOT have a Heart Attack. It is scary to hear that at 42.

    My dad has a pacemaker. I dont want to have one.
    I take Omega 3. I am never smoked a cigarette not even a puff. I dont drink. I dont eat junk food, no fatty food either and I dropped 75 lbs, that is what I do.

  84. I do try to take care of my heart.

    1. Quit smoking over 20 years ago.
    2. Maintain a healthy weight
    3. Run/cardio regularly
    4. Cross train with strength training
    5. Eat well… little saturated fat and lots of antioxidant rich freggies
    6. Have my blood checked every couple of years for cholesterol, etc.
    7. Keep my stress levels down.
    8. Live happily with my husband!
    9. Laugh and have fun every day.

    Great post… love it!

  85. I play with my kids, laugh, and hug them and my husband at random times throughout the day. It’s amazing what one hug will do for you!

  86. I have read all of the comments the women have made and they are all trying to change their life styles. All of them are doing something to decrease the stress in their lives, eat healthier and exercise. They all deserve to be recognized for what they are doing and the example they are showing their families.

    I am one of the Happy Heart Women! Its been 3 years and even if we don’t go to a class or see each other weekly, we are there for each other if something happens in someone’s life that needs our support. Each of us are still working on life changes that work for us. Some of us have achieved this more easily than others, but we have never given up! The coaches we have in the program are the best, along with knowing Dr. Woods oversees all of the test results. She then can make recommendations to your physician if they aren’t already
    addressing the issues.

    Keep in mind most people still think heart disease is a man’s disease. So, sometimes your doctor may need to be reminded its not. If you present with the same symptoms as a man having heart issues and they are not listening, then you need to find a way to make them. Someday hopefully we will not have to, but until then you have to be the one!

    When Dimity met a group of us, I am sure she walked away with the feeling that our group has unconditional love and support for each other. Dimity has mentioned this book may not be for everyone right now, but someday it may. Women’s health should be taught early on by your doctor, not when a problem exists.

    For all you young women who have the chance to read this book, please consider the gift you have been given to change your life style for a happy healthier one!

    I can honestly say that I am proud and honored to be a part of the Happy Heart Group. It came at a vital point of my life where I can still make changes.

  87. i changed jobs to eliminate a LOT of stress in my life, i try to eat a well-balanced vegetarian lifestyle, i run regularly, and i’m leaving in an hour to head to the cardiologist for an echocardiogram and stress test

  88. I’ve got heart disease and high BP and Cholesterol on both sides of my family and I’m trying really hard to change that trend. I’ve been doing yoga on a (semi) regular basis and I’ve been trying to change the way we eat. Thanks for such a great give away!

  89. Whole grains, lots of sleep, loving my family & myself, low stress (I keep my life simple), enjoy my hobbies like knitting & reading, and finally leaving my future up to God. Trust in the Lord!

  90. Thank you for such an awesome give away. Heart disease runs in my family on both sides so I really need to be careful. I try to watch what I eat, not drink or smoke, exercise, get enough sleep and take fish oil and aspirin daily. It’s comforting to read that there are so many other women with the same genes. My daughter’s preschool teacher just had a heart attack right before Thanksgving. It was really scary! She is only in her late forties or early fifties so your post really hit home today.

  91. This is awesome! As someone in the field of women’s health — mental health — I can’t agree more!

    Personally, I also:
    1. strength train (THANKS guys! You got me going.)
    2. try to get enough sleep
    3. try to keep the see-saw of life relatively balanced between family, work and other demands
    4. schedule and keep routine health appointments
    5. try to keep up my social network (Since I specialize in therapy for moms that focuses on this one, I am so glad to see we’re doing this for our heart too!)

  92. Running is my meditation time. I also have made a huge effort to be emotionally honest with myself and others in my life. How many of us have unintentionally held on to resentment and anger because we feel like we always have to sacrifice ourselves for our kids, husbands, work, etc? I choose life. I choose letting go. I choose to feel and to grieve and to give it all to God. That has been my single most heart-healthy lifestyle choice.

  93. I run, bike, and walk. I also take fish oil and try to watch what I eat. I have high triglycerides, in part because of other endocrine problems, so I am teaching myself to be hyper vigilant.

  94. I ride my bike when I can’t/don’t run. I also TRY to eat healthy (it’s just hard when all of the bad stuff taste so darn good)

  95. I have to RUN to keep my sanity these days! I am a relatively new runner, starting in June 2011, and ran my first half marathon in Novemeber 2011. I am currently healing a tibial stress fracture and realized while taking time off to heal that I need to run to relieve stress! I am getting back to running currently, and am loving my de-stresssing runs! Further, I run to stay healthy! My mother had a heart attack in July 2011, at the age of 62. Knowing that this disease is part of my genes, I refuse to let it “catch” me, so I will keep running to beat it! And to top it all off, my mom is now taking daily walks and going to introduce small intervals of RUNNING this week! So excited for her! Going to make a runner out of my mother!

  96. Like many others heart disease runs in my family. I take care of my heart by doing a variety of exercises in addition to running (swim, bike, yoga). I also do my best at eating healthy. I am certainly not perfect but I am working at improving. I am on day four of giving up Diet Coke. I know it is bad for me and I need to stop drinking it on a daily basis.

  97. I take care of my heart by giving love to friends and family and surround myself with positive people who make me want to be a better person.

  98. I do yoga, I swim, and bike. But I think my best proactive defense is being a vegetarian. I dropped my husbands cholesterol and weight into a much healthier range by cooking healthy foods, with non-meat protein options. Interested try just Meatout Monday to start. There are all kinds of resources out there. It’s not for everyone, but it works for us.

  99. I de-clutter. I can’t stand things all over the house, and it drives me insane when the kitchen island becomes a catch-all. I’ve always said Antiques Road Show or Cash in the Attic will never be coming to my house in 50 years because I don’t keep anything that long. If we don’t use it, it goes. A de-cluttered house = a de-cluttered mind.

  100. Frankly I don’t do enough outside of my running. I lost my dad to a heart attack when he was 50. My sister and my mom both take medication for high blood pressure. I WON’T be them. 🙂 I am trying to reduce my stress, sodium intake, relax, and breath!

  101. In addition to running, I teach two cardio classes each week, do yoga and cycling. I also try to eat “clean” unprocessed foods as much as possible. I don’t drink sodas, coffee, and try to limit my salt intake.

  102. What a good wake up call. I try to deal with anger but this is another reason to look at whole health. I need to read this because I don’t feel I’m doing enough to take care of my heart (self).

  103. I pray daily, thank God for my family, friends, health and the ability to run. I have all the risks for a heart attack, but in the last 8 months I have lost weight, trained for a half marathon and daily track my food-
    I surround myself with those who love and support me and distance myself from those who are toxic.

  104. Since heart disease and strokes run deep in my family, I pay close attention to my heart health. I make sure I mostly eat a diet full of heart healthy foods and low in fats. I also try to reduce stress….try being the operative word!!

  105. The book sounds very interesting and a good reminder that we are indeed at risk! To help me, I choose not to smoke, I hit the gym 4 times a week, leave my stress of work when I walk out the office door and try to take deep breaths when my 2.5 yr old is pitching on of his many fits 🙂

  106. We take health to heart (no pun intended LOL) We eat mostly organic to not load our bodies with unwanted and un-natural chemicals, keep little to no sweets in the house, we try to keep an eye on sodium intake, exercise and other activity to help manage stress. Heart disease in rampant in my family, so if I can do my part o keep myself and my family healthy, then I’m all for it!

  107. Hear disease runs in my family. My father died of it at 62, which now to me seems sooo young. I don’t smoke or drink. I try to watch what I eat and am getting back on board witha regular exercise routine. My dad used to say that you can’t choose your genes, so you have to take care of things that are in your control.

  108. Lots of heart disease in my family. Being the youngest child, i witnessed many of my older siblings (5 of them) make bad health choices with ugly results. Begininng in high school, yoga became my go-to exercise for stress relief. I added running about a year ago for cardio and I’ve found that the two exercises compliment each other well.

  109. I try to do the whole healthy diet thing, but the thing that keeps me most balanced (yes, this is a little weird) is organizing. If things are not in the right place, I lose my mind! We are so busy with school, PTA, Cub Scouts, plus our hobbies and groups, that if we can’t find things the minute we need them, things go quickly south! So, I organize. I have a system for everything, a Google calendar that synchs to both of our phones, and I probably drive my husband crazy with my drill sergeant precision, but in the long run, it keeps us both a little less stressed.

  110. Family history suggests I’m pretty much doomed to heart disease no matter what I do, and 3 years ago in my mid 30s I was 70 lbs overweight, with high bp and high cholesterol so I was clearly headed for disaster. Thankfully, I cleaned up my diet, started exercising, and ditched the 70 lbs and the high blood pressure (cholesterol is being stubborn though!). I still watch what I eat and exercise as much as possible — as much for the mental health/stress relief as for the physical benefits. Would love to read this book though!

  111. I have the lovely genetic factor of high blood pressure on both my mother and father’s side of the family. So when I got preeclampsia while pregnant with my daughter it did not surprise the Labor and Delivery nurse in me. I almost died from that experience and my blood pressure never went back to normal. So I choose to run to take care of myself and I also eat healthy. I do have to take medicine on a daily basis for my blood pressure, but exercising and eating healthy is a big help as well. My doctor always looks at me and says “You just have a serious case of the passing on of genetics”.:)

  112. Earlier this year my Dr. thought I was having angina attacks..who? Me?? Nahhh..I couldn’t believe it. So I had many tests done to rule out everything and at the end of the day it came down to massive stress in my life. I started back exercising, changed my diet, and breathinnnnnnng… You think you are invincible when you’ve done 10 Ironman races, multiple marathons..exercised and still I have high cholesterol (hereditary) . So I take my fish oils, vitamins, baby aspirin, get lots of sleep.
    My Dr. says i’m at the age now that I need to be more aware of my body. How many times have we and so was out jogging and dropped dead of a heart attack..why??? The symptoms were likely there and because we think we are exercising and all that it’s not going to happen to “me”…well it does, so be aware, be healthy, do your regular Dr. check ups and try and remove stresses in your life..well that’s my $.02 :))

  113. I had a stroke in 2006 right after my daughter was born. I was 3o years old and in otherwise perfect health. Tests revealed a hole in my heart that had obviously gone undetected. It’s since been repaired and I’ve gone on to have another baby and run a marathon and countless other halfs and races, but I will never again take my health for granted! In fact, I have a checkup with my cardiologist on Friday just to make sure that everything is functioning as it should. Aside from trying to avoid negative crap in my life, I attribute my heart health to lots of exercise and red wine 🙂

  114. Not enough though I TRY to sleep better and eat okayish… Not so good at stress management, be it work-induced or tied to relationships.

  115. I do my best to get good sleep. And my goal for 2012 is to stay calm and stay out of my own head. All too often I get worked up about things that are in my head, and if I would just let go of them, I would have a lot less stress.

  116. After having my own “heart” scare recently and finding out I have extra beats and what feels like missed beats – I make sure I’m hydrating, get enough sleep, have almost no caffeine, and the most important to me is I make sure that I still exercise. I figure if I don’t exercise the weight will come on and that is extra stress my heart does not need. Plus running helps keep me sane which has to be good for my heart.

  117. Hands down my relationship with Jesus Christ is what takes care of my heart. I’ve weathered many storms with perfect peace because of Him.

  118. I eat a diet rich in fruits and veggies and I take Juice Plus. The 22+ clinical, independent and peer-reviewed studies on this product shows that is supports several factors of cardiovascular health. See more at

  119. I try to eat well — it doesn’t always work, but I keep trying. I don’t drink much or smoke. I bicycle and I’ve started swimming. I try really hard not to yell and to stay calm which doesn’t always work either.

  120. I avoid food without nutritional value, unless it’s divine. I don’t eat a bunch of packaged candy crap, and I won’t pass up a lava cake made from quality ingredients.

  121. Vegetarian for almost 40 years and finally getting a handle on taking the steps to permanent veganism (focus of my blogging). I am a no-meat athlete and celebrated my second runniversary yesterday!!

  122. My dad had his first heart attack at 37 years old….so I have always worried I would follow in his steps. Besides running I also eat healthy now as I am a vegetarian. I also have never been a smoker. I try to spend valuable time with family and friends as you just never now when your number is up. I also volunteer with animals….something that rewarding makes my heart smile 🙂

  123. I spend time with my children. There are 5 of them and spending time with each of them and thier friends allows me to relax and laugh. oh to be young again! I also knit. This may seem like an”old lady” thing but it is so calming and relaxing. Plus I create things to give to others. Win win

  124. Mostly exercise and diet, I eat lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and eat very little red meat. My new years resolution is to address the little things so they don’t become big things, which will (hopefully) reduce stress and anger in my life.

  125. Though I haven’t had a heart attack, I know the symptoms in women enough to know I should go to the emergency room last December (’10.) It was an anxiety attack, brought on by stress. I try to exercise, eat healthy, but I stopped doing yoga and maybe I should take it back up. I am starting a new stressful time in my life: being unemployed and searching for a job.

  126. I do my best to eat well, whole grains, the whole deal, not only to keep me well but to keep a good example for my children.

  127. Yoga. I started practicing regularly in March 2011. My husband told me I can never quit…I guess it’s changed my “pressure cooker reactions” that much! smile

  128. I work on my heart by keeping my temper in check and eating healthy. High blood pressure runs in my family and my father got it in his 50s, my opa his 40’s. I hope to hold it off naturally until my 60’s.

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